Kate Winslet turns in an award-winning performance as Mildred Pierce, a Depression-era housewife with incredible strength, but one great weakness. The Blu-ray features a great video transfer, solid audio presentation, and a strong set of special features. Mildred Pierce Release Date: January 3, 2012 Studio: HBO Home Entertainment Packaging/Materials: Four-disc DigiPack Year: 2011 Rating: TV-MA Running Time: Approx. 5:40:00 MSRP: $49.99 THE FEATURE SPECIAL FEATURES Video 1080p high definition 1.78:1 High definition Audio DTS-HD Master Audio: English 5.1 / DTS: French 5.1, Spanish 2.0 Various Subtitles English SDH, French, Spanish, Castellano, Portuguese, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish Various The Mini-Series: 4.5/5 Adapted from James M. Cain's novel of the same name, "Mildred Pierce" essentially contains two distinct stories. The first is a quintessential tale founded on the American Dream, as the newly separated Mildred (Kate Winslet) is forced to provide for herself and her two young daughters in the midst of the Great Depression. Over several years' time she'll do more than just survive her financial situation, she'll become a successful business woman and restauranteur with more resources at her disposal than she could have imagined. The second story is a family melodrama, as Mildred is determined to shield her children - specifically the eldest, Veda (Morgan Turner, then Evan Rachel Wood) - from the harsh realities of the economic downturn. Though money is tight, Veda still gets her music lessons and outings at the country club with Mildred's new beau Monty (Guy Pearce). But Mildred's protective measures also foster her daughter's rather monstrous personality. At 11 years old Veda's a pretentious snob; in nine years time - when she actually has something to back up her ambitions - she'll prove to be so much worse, and ultimately Mildred's undoing. Which leads to the piece of the story that viewers will find either compelling or frustrating - Mildred's unwavering devotion to a daughter who has never given her anything in return, who ultimately considers her mother beneath her. But Veda is Mildred's greatest weakness, an unhealthy relationship that does her no good but that she simply can't give up. For those who have never struggled with addiction or obsession, the Mildred-Veda relationship will likely prove quite baffling. For anyone else, it will reflect a deep-seated need that is more significant than we care to admit. Winslet does a remarkable job with the part, selling the many - sometimes contradictory - facets of the character. Her recent Golden Globe award for the role was well deserved. While the Veda character is more one-dimensional by comparison, especially the 11-year old version, the actresses playing the character do a fine job. Though Wood is not known for being the most nuanced of performers, in this case she is perfectly cast for the part. A company of terrific supporting players, including Melissa Leo as Mildred's neighbor Lucy, Mare Winningham as Mildred's fellow waitress Ida, and Brian F. O'Byrne as Mildred's ex-husband Bert round out the cast. Impeccable production design, costuming and cinematography further enhance a first rate production. The Blu-ray of "Mildred Pierce" includes all five parts that aired on HBO in March of 2011: Part 1 (59:58) Part 2 (1:04:44) Part 3 (1:05:56) Part 4 (1:11:24) Part 5 (1:20:45) Video Quality: 4.5/5 The 1080p, AVC-encoded transfer, framed at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, features strong contrast, rich black levels, and deep color in a palette that leans toward natural, earthy tones. When the story enters into the dramatic realm of Veda's singing career, colors become much brighter - almost garish - and the transfer handles the changes beautifully. Shot on on 16mm film, grain is ever-present and uncompromised by noise reduction measures. Detail and sharpness are also impressive - revealed in the fine details of the period costumes - showing that even a smaller film format can shine when all things are handled properly. Audio Quality: 4/5 Dialogue in the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is consistently clear, detailed and intelligible. Surround activity is fairly minimal, showing up for the occasional environmental effect and support for the score. High frequency detail is excellent, especially during Veda's opera performances. The track exhibits great depth and fullness throughout, though LFE is essentially non-existent. Special Features: 4/5 Video featurettes and audio commentaries prove to be the highlight of the extras for their informational content. The two-disc DVD release is included as a convenience, though it's debatable whether the standard definition version will get much play in owners' homes. Previews: Each episode includes the 40+ second teaser that was produced for it. Inside the Episodes: Haynes sits down with author and critic Robert Polito and discusses each of the episodes, offering character analysis and describing differences between the novel and the teleplay he co-wrote with Jon Raymond. Part 1 (4:39, HD) Part 2 (4:06, HD) Part 3 (4:57, HD) Part 4 (4:58, HD) Part 5 (4:36, HD) Audio Commentaries: Recorded for parts three and five, Writer/Director Todd Haynes, Writer Jon Raymond and Production Designer Mark Friedberg talk at length about the characters, teleplay adaptation, production design, costuming and filming. Similar material can be found in the video featuretttes, but the commentaries prove to be the most detailed source of information about the production, with Haynes often reading from James M. Cain's own writings about the novel. Making of Mildred Pierce (29:01, HD): The HBO featurette covers the topics of development, Winslet's approach to and preparation for the role, cinematography, production design, and costuming. DVD: The five parts, spread across two discs, are presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic video and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio at 448 kbps. The special features are limited to the Parts Three and Five audio commentaries. Recap The Feature: 4.5/5 Video Quality: 4.5/5 Audio Quality: 4/5 Special Features: 4/5 Overall Score (not an average): 4/5 HBO Home Entertainment turns in a fine presentation for its five-part mini-series "Mildred Pierce," starring Kate Winslet as a Depression-era housewife with great strength but one great weakness. A solid set of extras provides detailed information about the production, though the inclusion of the two-disc DVD release makes for larger-than-normal packaging and probably higher-than-usual pricing. Still, the strength of the mini-series is enough to overlook the unusual decisions around the packaging.